The Gospel reading from Mark 5:21-43 is a pair of stories about faith and Jesus’ power over life and death. The woman with the hemorrhage showed great faith in spite of obstacles. The story of Jairus and his daughter demonstrated great faith on the part of a religious leader. Both came from different social classes. Jairus was a well-to-do member of the religious establishment-a group that often opposed Jesus. The woman with the hemorrhage was poor and a social outcast. The difference in social classes did not matter to Jesus. He treated both of them equally.
In each case, the “establishment” could not offer a solution to the problem, but Jesus could, in spite of opposition and laughter. Jairus was desperate because his child was dying, and as those of you who are parents know all too well, a parent of a sick or dying child will do almost anything to save the child. Jairus was so desperate he knelt at the feet of the one person who could help him-Jesus.
The woman with the hemorrhage also sought a solution from the one person who could help her. All the doctors she saw failed her. Society failed her because her bleeding made her unclean along with everyone and everything she touched. She is an example of women today who struggle to break through in business and society. She is an inspiration to women in religious settings who feel that their ministerial gifts are ignored or rejected.
Jesus did not fail her. He saw her as a person and as someone of value. She believed that by just touching the clothes of the one man who could help her, she would be healed, and her healing changed her, her heart, her body, her life and her soul.
There are many Biblical texts that refer to the relationship between sickness and sin or between forgiveness and healing. These relationships exist not because God has decided to inflict sickness on some poor unfortunate souls, but because sickness and sin define everything that is wrong with our world. In other words, they define the mess that God comes to clean up. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time are good examples of the mess.
Some people believe that God should rid the world of sickness and death, and that belief does make some sense. If God protected everyone who believed in Him, then everyone would believe not out of love, but out of a calculated self-interest. People would believe only so that God would take care of them and their families. Unfortunately, we would also have no freedom to believe or disbelieve. We would be enslaved because of our fear of death, and that is not what God had in mind.
Jairus had to “lower” himself when he sought healing for his daughter. He had to move beyond the rules and expectations of the religious elite in order to be delivered from its assumptions and illusions. He had to move beyond the praises and promises and good intentions of the religious elite and go with what his heart told him to do. He used his social status and power in order to approach Jesus, and then he emptied himself of them. He came to Jesus in humility and earnest faith.
When Jesus brought the little girl back to life, he didn’t fill her empty stomach. That’s because God wants us to be a part of what he is doing. He brought the little girl back to life, but he wanted the people around her to give her something to eat and watch her enjoy every morsel. Then there would be no doubt that Jesus truly was omnipotent-all powerful and great in mercy.
Jesus came to raise the dead-both the physically dead and the spiritually dead. When Jesus is on a mission, nothing can stop him. He did not allow the professional mourners and their laughter to stop him from showing God’s healing power. The mourners represent people who refuse to accept Christ and the gifts he offers.
Only a select few were allowed to see Jesus bring the girl back to life. Jesus wanted the news kept secret. He knew that most of the people could not understand what had happened. He knew that the miracle of the dead being brought back to life could only be understood by those who believe in one who himself was raised from the dead-namely, Jesus.
Most of you have heard of the old saying that “desperate times call for desperate remedies”. Desperate times also call for a desperate faith-a faith we saw in both of these parables. Faith in itself is meaningless, but faith in an all-powerful God means everything. Jesus enters our lives in our hopeless moments and brings us hope. He comes with his healing power when no healing is possible. Sometimes he works the miracle of physical healing, and sometimes he works the miracle of spiritual healing. He may not always come when we want him to come, and he might not always answer our prayers the way we want him to, but we must always be faithful and know that he will help us. Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.
Sometimes God does what is right by not doing anything right away or by doing something other than what we want him to do. Jairus had to wait for his daughter’s “healing” while Jesus healed the woman with the hemorrhage, and as a result his daughter’s situation went from bad to worse. When we have to wait, our faith can be shaken. We wonder if God loves us at all. We might wonder if we are worthy of God’s love. We might wonder if we are praying to God in the proper way. Jairus might have had some of these same feelings, and if he did, it would certainly be understandable. Jesus did not give up on Jairus, and Jairus did not give up on Jesus. Jesus asked Jairus to have faith, and Jairus did have faith. Even when God does not answer our prayers in the way we want him to do, we can have faith that God does love us and he answered our prayer in the way that was best for us and in line with his will for our lives.
Faith empowers healing, but the lack of faith hinders healing. That’s why Jesus ordered the mourners to leave Jairus’ house. Their minds were closed to someone who has the last word over death-Jesus. People who have faith handle life’s problems differently from people who have no faith. This is the story of the true meaning of the term “faith healing”. An act of faith on the part of the woman healed her. Jesus even said that her faith made her well. Jairus never lost faith, even when he was told that his daughter was dead. Jesus did not comfort Jairus when he heard that his daughter had died. Instead, Jesus challenged him to have faith. Regardless of our circumstances, God always urges us to have faith, not fear.
Nothing is too small for God. He notices the little things in our lives, just like Jesus noticed when the woman touched his cloak. Jesus always knows the intentions of our hearts and he distinguishes the touch of faith from the touch of a follower.
Jesus gave out of his abundant power to heal, and we have been called to give out of our abundance and carry out God’s work in our world. He calls us to love one another as he loves us-including showing love and compassion to those who are suffering. Jesus took people where they were and loved them into life. He is love in action. Loving is costly. It takes something out of us, just like each and every healing took something out of Jesus. We suffer when we work against God’s will, especially when it conflicts with our own selfish desires. Sometimes his will interrupts our lives. When it does, can we adapt or do we stick to our plans?
This Gospel passage shows the compassionate face of Jesus. He suffered with those who suffered, and he still serves the suffering today. He served those who reached out to him in vulnerable ways, and he still serves them today. He showed compassion to the suffering and the grieving, and he still shows compassion to them today. This compassionate, suffering servant attitude gives us hope for today and hope for the next life as well.
Something else that we learn from this story is that with God, all things are possible. When things are impossible from an earthly point of view, they are possible from God’s point of view. When things are looking bleak, you can take comfort in the knowledge that God will be there to comfort you and give you strength as you face the challenges in the days, weeks and months ahead.
When we receive God’s grace, we end up taking Jesus seriously. When we do, Jesus will change our tears into joy and our skepticism into amazement. At that time we will find out what it means to be made whole.
It is at times like these when we need to put our differences aside and work together to help those who are facing difficult times. Just like Jesus treated Jairus and the woman equally, our spiritual differences are put aside when we come together in worship and in faith. He reaches out to us in Word and Sacrament, takes us by the hand and raises us up in faith. Only then can we experience the life God intended all of humanity to have-one that is whole, free, redeemed and restored.
- Stanley, C.F., “The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher; 2009)
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- The Rev. Dr. Lewis Galloway, PCUSA, “Taking Jesus Seriously”. Retrieved from www.day1.org